How to avoid them and what to do if you have been scammed.
Chances are if you’ve found this blog then you’ve already been scammed or in the process of being scammed. This article is here to help you and will cover how to avoid being scammed, what to do if you are being scammed and how to recover your losses if you have been scammed. Take a deep breath, slow down and don’t rush. If you follow the instructions in this article you’ll be OK. In many cases there will be an immediate resolution but most cases the resolution will take a couple of days. Just stay calm and don’t act in haste.
I have been an eBay buyer and seller going on 17 years. For that reason the pictorial portions of this article are from eBay but the rules apply to every shopping site across the internet. The features I will be discussing apply to user created sales sites like eBay and Amazon. Some of the features may not exist on private owned sites but the rules still apply.
Before you make your purchase.
Check the sellers feedback:
TL:DR – Look at the sellers feedback. Ignore the highlighted yellow banners. Black text and % signs should be your #1 priority in judging whether or not you should purchase this item. It is extremely difficult for any reputable business to have a feedback rating of less than 99.5%. The only exception to the above rule is the difference between a high volume and a low volume vendor aka big business versus the Mom & Pop stores.
Understanding feedback: The breakdown:
You’ve combed your local market but you just can’t find it or maybe you did find it but it’s over priced. You know there are always great deals and steals to be found on eBay and Amazon and made the decision every intelligent shopper makes. You search for it online. STOP. Before you hit the submit button did you check out the vendor/seller? What kind of feedback do they have? Are they a “Top Rated Seller”? Do they have extra bells and whistles on their profile that are designed to boost your confidence in the seller and their product? STOP. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Example:
Top Rated Sellers:
This is a collage of images I have taken from a top rated seller on eBay. Clearly there is contradictory information in front of you. By design it’s misleading. The bells and whistles, “Top Rated Seller” and “Top Rated Plus” are highlighted in yellow. Yellow highlighting is something the general buying population is preconditioned to focus on. In high school and college, what did you do to your text books when you wanted to stress important points? You highlighted it with a yellow marker. On eBay, the actual most important information is in BLACK text. This is most important.
Percentage of Positive vs Negative Transactions:
If you’ve ever used eBay it’s common knowledge that a 98.7% positive feedback rating means it is the worst possible store to consider making purchases from. It is almost impossible for a feedback rating to fall this low. There is a pattern of poor business practices with this vendor. Feedback percentage is calculated based on the total number of positive and negative feedback ratings for transactions that ended in the last 12 months.
Well how come he has the “Top Rated Seller” and “Top Rated Plus” badges highlighted in yellow on his profile if he has a pattern of poor business practices? To answer your question you must continue to look at the information in front of you.
To qualify for the yellow highlighted badge, all you need is 100 or more transactions and $1,000 in sales during the last 12 months with US buyers. How long do you think it takes to sell 100 products or $1000 worth of products? Have you ever stood in a thrift store and watched the rolling racks and carts stream out from the back from the constant, steady stream of donations? There’s your 100 transactions. It can be done in less than a 24 hour period.
The rest of the answer is equally as simple but only if you take the time to look at this vendors sales record, advertising history and corporate tier level. OK so you can’t see their advertising history but where did you find this vendors product? Was it on eBay’s landing page? If you found this vendors product on eBay’s landing page it’s because the vendor paid for the advertising. Otherwise, due to the low positive feedback percentage, the vendor would otherwise be buried on the back pages behind the more reputable sellers of the same product. Was it at the top of your search results? Look at your browser. Do you see this at the top right of the page or this at the bottom left? To help find a more suitable seller, toggle these settings to fit your personal preferences.
Ebay standard practice is to feature the above listed vendor and hundreds just like them by defaulting your browser to these settings. These are vendors whose business practices are so poor that they have resorted to paying eBay for advertising. It’s no secret that selling an item on eBay is free. Every vendor is given 50 free listings per month. On occasion, eBay will run a promotion for it’s sellers which will offer a temporary increase to as many as 5000 free listings. With that many freebies for sellers why would anybody need to pay for advertising on a free website? There’s a reason for it. Yes, it is good marketing to advertise but when your customer service is so bad that unless your business starts shelling out it’s profits it would not qualify for preferred placement then clearly there’s something not quite right. Also keep in mind that many of the large businesses who do advertise on eBay also have “Anchor Status” which means a certain amount of negative ratings are routinely removed. This is part of an advertisement package they pay for.
The above information is only relevant to large volume businesses. Here is how to determine if you should make your purchase from a small seller:
How do you know who is and who isn’t a large volume business? By looking at numbers in black text, that’s always first. Then check the blue numbers. Feedback percentage is calculated based on the total number of positive and negative feedback ratings for transactions that ended in the last 12 months. Unfortunately for the small volume seller, the calculation places them at a disadvantage to extreme proportions. This is how you find your seller:
If feedback is calculated based on the total number of positive and negative feedback ratings for transactions that ended in the last 12 months, a single negative for a low volume seller on eBay can be reduced to a devastating 98.9% even though they’ve had 105 positive feedback ratings over the course of one year. Use your best judgement.
Check The Feedback Comments:
Amazon is notorious for it’s false feedback. It is no secret that many vendors purchase feedback ratings and product ratings in bulk. If a customer review does not display “Verified Purchase” below the rating, toss it out, ignore it, do not allow whatever is written to influence your good judgment.
Ebay’s feedback is authentic. No one can leave feedback that didn’t participate in or pay for a transaction. The only exception to this rule is where the seller cancelled the transaction because they are out of stock. The purchaser always has entitlements to leave feedback.
What are the customers saying about the seller? These are actual feedback ratings taken from my own eBay seller profile.
- Are customers verifying that the items the seller carries are authentic?
- What are the customers saying about product dispatch time? Are they being shipped in a timely fashion?
- What are the customers saying about the type of customer service they’ve experienced?
- Do the customers verify the the seller has earned your business?
Now that I’ve looked at the sellers feedback, who should I buy from?
- Is it a Top Rate Seller? – we’ve covered (above) the qualifications, in’s and outs.
- Did you check the % number in black text? A large seller should have a feedback rating above 99.5%. A small should have a feedback rating above 98.9%. Use your best judgement using the I rules provided for you when making your decision.
- Are the customers who’ve made purchases before you validated that this is a trustworthy vendor?
Who do I contact if I’ve been scammed?
I will always recommend communicating with the vendor directly before getting the main site involved. Often times the vendor is well meaning, is unaware of a mistake and is willing to work with you to resolve your issue in a courteous and timely manner. The only time you should escalate the issue to a higher level is after you have determined that your vendor does not intend to remedy the issue. Always, always, always communicate with the vendor first. Give them the opportunity to correct the problem. The last thing we want to do is hurt a well meaning business who stands by their product and offers quality customer service.
Amazon requires you to have an account and be logged in before you can access the help pages. After you’ve logged in, at the bottom right of the page, look for “Amazon Assistant”. It will take you to a page which shows you your purchases. Under step 1. highlight the image. Step 2. hover over the drop down menu choose from the selections that most accurately most describe the issue you’re having. 3. You will have a choice of contacting Amazon by e-mail, phone or chat.
Ebay is a beast of it’s own. There are several way to access help. You don’t have to be logged in but I suggest logging into your account because the customer support lines 866-540-3229 are outsourced to the Philippines and just like the old HP support lines, the support representatives can be impersonal, rehearsed and will add to your frustrations as they read from a set of pre-selected responses to your questions.
The best way to get help on eBay is to look to the left side of the page where the navigation bar is and click Purchase History. Just like with Amazon there are drop down menu’s and clickable links. The first link you should click is, “contact the seller”. If that fails, then you will be covered by the buyer protection program and you will see those options in the exact same place as where you contacted the seller. Ebay is very partial to it’s customer and will usually favor you. Ebay’s decision is also a good indication of whether your expectations were realistic or not and if you’ve actually been scammed or if you only feel that you’ve scammed.
As a last resort, if you feel eBay decision was not in your favor by a lapse in judgement, you can always repeat the process by way of PayPal or your credit card company but I don’t suggest it because all of the information from the time you logged in to contact the vendor, to contact the site, to contact PayPal and your bank has been logged into a permanent record. If you abuse a system that is designed to be fair to you as a purchaser, you are asking for trouble. Not only do you stand the chance of losing all related accounts but vendors are very wise to con games and will not hesitate to escalate the case in their favor. Trust me when I say, if eBay or Amazon decides against you, you weren’t scammed to begin with, you just feel like you were because of egocentric reasons.